Yarn Play- Baby Alpaca/ Silk Petite 2

ScannedImageOne of the questions I often get asked is about yarn. There are so many different types a yarn out there that it can be difficult understand what makes each special, how each will behave in a project and why one might work better in different circumstances.

I will admit, my learning has been through some trial and error, but I also have been overwhelmed with the knowledge that I have received from my local fiber guild (Hangtown Fibers Guild). It consists of people from every aspect of the world of yarn, everyone from those that grow the sheep, shear them, card the wool, spin it, weave it, dye it, knit it, crochet it, felt it…everything. It is truly a remarkable group of mostly women that inspire me more often than they realize, and it is from this inspiration that I began looking at yarn and its properties differently.


Playing with Drop Stitch and Lisa Souza Dyeworks Baby Alpaca/ Silk Petite 2 (color phaedra)

So today, I have been working with a 2 ply fine weight yarn, by Lisa Souza Dyeworks. This Baby Alpaca/Silk Petite 2 has a nice halo, not to overmuch, but just enough. (The halo is the fibers that tend to almost “hover” around the yarn, it does not seem to be actually in the strand by surrounding it, almost like a slight fuzz).

The two ply does not allow for strong stitch definition, so textual stitches like cables, popcorns and puffs make be lost, but the overall fabric is very light. Two ply yarns in general tend to be a little “flat” and it makes sense when you think about what kind of “tube” is formed from the twisting of 2 tubes together. If you look yarn from the cut end, different plies result in different looks, twisting only 2 strands together you can see gaping or open spaces when compared to a perfect circle.

Being created with Alpaca and Silk, the yarn is strong and will hold up to some wear, but does not have a long of spring. Once it is blocked it will respect its new form, while remaining very soft, and having a decent amount of drape. The fiber content also lends itself to being warm, while the soft nature is appealing to wear near or directly on the skin.

There is definitely life in this yarn, but it is a relaxed life. I think it probably works up best in shawls and wraps, and maybe even a cardigan if you would like it to have a little more of a “hanging” appearance. If you wanted to use it in items like gloves, or things that need some stretch, then you may want to consider that the stretch is going to primarily come from the chosen stitches.

I am currently working it in a drop stitch technique (learn how to drop stitch crochet here) to highlight the yarn in some open work, I will keep you updated on its progress.

More Mid Year Gifts! Unique Yarns

ScannedImageSo, as my last post discusses, I went to the TNNA Summer Trade show in Columbus a few weeks ago, and received an awesome gift back from the Marly Bird Designer Dinner that I want to share with you.

Today I am giving away an assortment of yarns, not just any yarns but yarns have some unique personalities, such as Mango Moon Yarns Chakra. This yarn is made with some recycled materials while still being hand spun and proceeds help families in Nepal and Indonesia. But the most intriguing thing about this yarn is the pre-strung beads. I can admit, that the pre-strung beads are little intimidating for me, but after a little playing with the yarn I can state that it is really fun and easy to use. I would recommend rolling this hank into a standard ball and not use a ball winder to create a center pull, as the beads might get hung up and make a mess. I also found that for me the majority of the beads work themselves to the back of my work, so working in the round creates a wrong side fabric that is bursting with beads, while working back and forth rows creates a fabric that is a little more balanced with beads on either side.


A give away of unique yarns! Red Heart reflective, Mango Moon Chakra, Mode Knit Yarns Mode Werk FLOW, Knitcircus Yarns Greatest of Ease, Miss Babs Samples & Dragonfly Fibers Pixie sample

The Mode Knit Yarn, Mode Werk FLOW is a fun gradient yarn; super soft and fingering weight. It is a fun long color change that has subtle blending so it is fun to create projects that really highlights your stitches while not leaving things feeling monotone.

There was also a second gradient yarn by Knitcircus Yarns. Greatest of Ease is also really soft and has a fun color change as well. I can really imagine projects that are either worked from the center out (like a hat or motif, so that the edges are a different color then the beginning) or a piece like a scarf of a shawl, that allows the top and bottom of the piece to be a different color.

Then Red Heart Reflective yarn makes an interesting statement. What makes this yarn so different is that it as a strand of reflective material twisted in the yarn. This does not make a really noticeable difference in the day light; it is just a nice steady color durable yarn. But when it gets dark, shine a light on it and the strand reflects back the light and almost looks like it is glowing. I know that projects for anyone that might go jogging or riding bicycles at dusk or dawn could benefit possibly with safety as vehicles should be able to see them better, as well as kids during the Halloween holiday.

Then the gift bag had fun little “taste samples” for Miss Babs yarn, a small sample of Kaweah (a DK weight), Hot Shot & Sojour (both fingering weight). These are great for getting to make a swatch or small motif, and see how you like the yarn, like a little test. I can tell you that they all have different properties but are all beautiful.

Dragonfly Fibers also provided a “taste skein” of Pixie ( a light weight yarn) that leads to an understanding of the yarn works up and gets your imagination inspired.

These yarns all have something different to offer, and I will be sharing a set of these yarns with one lucky individual. To enter, just leave a comment on this page about what unique yarns you may have used in the past, or look forward to trying in the future. One comment will be selected at random from all comment posted on or before Thursday July, 16, 2015. I will announce the winner via my Facebook page and Twitter the following day.

Crochet -Creating Opportunities and Communities

ScannedImageI enjoy March. How can you not, it is a month long celebration of crochet! This is the third year that Crochetville has put this fabulous blog tour together, highlighting a least 2 different crochet designers each day (if you missed any make sure and spend some time catching up with them from the interviews at Crochetville) and Thank you Amy & Donna for once again putting this together.

halosofhopeFor me I always realize something about the world through crochet, and one of the reoccurring themes is community. This blog tour also brings attention to great service organizations, like Halos of Hope, that use crochet items to better society. Crochetville is taking up a collection for Halos of Hope, please consider contributing.

Crochetville_Designer_Blog_Tour_Promo-e1427303900438Community can be large like the Crochet Guild of America, many crocheters from around the world coming together in one organization, or small like your own local guild (mine is the Hangtown Fibers Guild, you can find one near you here), or crochet group, or coffee chat. But community can be quite unique and sometime taken for granted. So I wanted to share the store of how my Empress Wide Scarf (my free pattern as a gift to you for National Crochet Month), came into being. It is an interesting network that was connected and brought together by crochet.

IMG_6799.1My rural life has me in an area that is great for growing wine grapes, I should preface this by informing you that I have very little knowledge of wine; I know there is red & white, but much more than that and I am lost. With that said I believe the majority of the wine varieties in my area are more reminiscent of Italy then France as it is a region with a Tuscany climate, as a result there are many award winning wineries nearby. So my children go to school with, and are friends with, the children of winery owners and workers. One day I was approached by the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, she has admired my crochet work and was hoping I could create something for her daughter’s birthday. She had some rough idea that she might like a scarf or something that she could wrap around her head in a dramatic fashion like a Hepburn. She would love it to have the feel of a particular shawl I wear often (the Five Peaks Shawl by Vashti Braha), created in a fingering weight hand painted bamboo.


Empress Wide Scarf – Free Pattern (click link below)

Now this mother knows about as much about crochet and yarn as I know about wine. I know that I cannot find a comparable yarn in the local box store; my local yarn store did not even carry such a fiber, so I began playing with various fibers to see if I could get a similar feel and drape. Then I happened to run into a fiber friend, she is an independent dyer that I have done some other crochet designs for in the past. I did not think to use her yarn at first, but after looking over the stock I found something that would fit perfectly. As it happens the dyer, Lisa Souza, loves that wine that the mother creates, Holly’s Hill Vineyards, so trades were able to be arranged so that everyone benefited. As a result I have been able to take this birthday present and share it with you.

My larger take away from this is how small the world can really be. By not hiding my work, I was able to bring others together in a completely different way, and I am reminded that I have a skill that I can share. Crochet can create a community that may not have been created otherwise, as it creates “ice breaker” opportunities; people are brought to fond memories when they see the fiber arts. (I discussed this more in the blog post Thankful Crochet…Not What You Might Expect)


Empress Scarf- Free Pattern (click link below)

So the Empress Wide Scarf is created using Tunisian Simple Stitch, but what makes this pattern stand out is that it changes color on the Forward & Return Pass. The effects are very nice. So that the colors do not get too muted together in the Tunisian work, it is edged with standard crochet in defining bands of color.

Visit my Ravelry Store and download your pattern for FREE. If you are so inclined, please feel free to use coupon code “natcromo15” to receive a 15% discount on any order of at least two patterns until April 15, 2015.

I hope you make your own communities, as often as possible.

Something Special…Do Not Wait for the Moment

ScannedImageI had a moment of clarity and awaking the other day when going through my yarn stash; I treat special as something cherished and don’t indulge in it very often.

I actually have a couple of stashes around the house; one closet that houses most of the yarns I do work with, current yarns of large yarn companies, then I have a large tote that is filled with yarns that are discontinued of inherited from the stash of others that get used for charity projects (this is also the only stash the kids are allowed to go through to make their own projects). There is the little desk (that I can easily forget about) that houses yarns that I use for class instructions. Then there is last stash, a cabinet that houses those “special yarns”, ones that I have purchased of the years, ones that are beautiful to me, or one skein luxury gifts in a sense.

This cabinet is a little hodge podge of different fibers, some I have even hand dyed, some handspun, but they are all yarns that evoke some kind of memory or feeling. I keep them in a “special” category; someday I will find the right pattern for that “special” yarn. It always gets put off to tomorrow as I work on today.


one corner of one shelf in my “special” cabinet

Yes, I attempt to save the best for last. A good bottle of wine can live decades in my house as I find the best moment to drink it, my strand of pearls gather dust in my jewelry box as I wait for events special enough to wear them to, heck even at a good dinner my favorite dish on the plate has to be my last bite saving it to be cherished longer before moving on to the next thing.

I have always been like this, but as I was going through my cabinet, I realized that some of my “special” yarn had not seen the light of day in years. A little collection of merino yarn that I created at a dying workshop that was…oh, at least 5 years ago, but no more then 8, has been sitting in little cake balls waiting to be made into anything. Some little skeins of silk I got at a show a few years ago, and a few skeins that I spun myself on my own wheel (considering that I have a layer of dust on my wheel, and it has not spun anything since 2011, I know those have been there a while) easily dance in the foreground.

Time does pass in odd ways like this, waiting, waiting for something special. I recognize its passing in everyday life, all the things I need to get done, the deadlines before me, but I seem to neglect the “special”, waiting for the moment.

I hope that with this epiphany that I can at least attempt to “make a moment “during the week to address something special. Bring more of the richness life has to offer into the every day, at least I hope that I can keep this as a conscience goal and that it does not get eaten up by time…but only time will tell.



Learning the Hank (part 2)


From Hank to Skein with Blue Heron Yarn

ScannedImage(Continued from April 19, 2013 post)…. So I finally understood the concept of a “hank” of yarn, it was intimidating me anymore, so I would simply open it up and roll it into a ball. Needless to say I had nothing but a tangled mess. After freeing the large loop of yarn so that I could unravel it from its loop, I learned that it might want to hold on to its neighboring thread and pull it ever so slightly with it, moving the neighboring thread from where it sat and growing into a mess. It took me hours, and even then I needed to cut places and work out knots that I had made, it was a head ache.  But this time I was not discouraged. I would find a process.


Let the loops hang smooth, note the yarn that ties to loop together, keeping the yarn in place


Usually you can fond the end of the yarn tied to a securing yarn, that holds the loops in place

After playing with some hanks I learned that before I even attempt “freeing” the yarn from its loop, I need to make sure the loop in smooth, not twisted, that it hangs nicely, this will definitely help. Then I need to place it somewhere that will keep it taunt, maybe over the back of a dining room chair, but I found that I use my knees (not very lady like but effective for me), I have learned that some people use a swift…it reminds my somewhat of an umbrella, but without the fabric. This expands to the size of the loop and will spin as you pull the yarn). Then I can make it into a ball, if I want to pull it from the center I can wrap the yarn around an empty toilet paper tube (open finishing wrapping it up, I can pull out the tube and use the middle yarn, as pulling from  the center means that the yarn will not be rolling around that floor as I use), or there is a little tool called a ball winder that you place your yarn end in and crank its little handle and it spins it onto a tube, to make a pull from the center skein.

So why is yarn placed in hanks? Is it just to give you a little more of a work out, or to look fancy? Actually it does have a reason; it places less stress on the yarn. By being in that “loop” it helps the yarn to relax, where putting it into a skein or ball, the yarn in the center is under more pressure than the yarn on the outer edges. This may be a subtle thing, but it can make a difference in some processes and designs, especially if the fiber has been sitting in this more pressured state of a long while. If you think about it you have seen this with a basic skein of yarn, when you pull out the beginning end, it is often bent of twisted, where by the end of the skein it is smooth. So if you want to use a hank of yarn, only wind it into a ball when you feel you are ready to use it. It will help the yarn stay consistent.


Notice the hank lets you view the length of the color change, whereas the skein it is less obvious

One of the benefits I have found with a hank, it a purely visible one, I can open a hank to a loop, and see how long the color changes are for a variegated yarn. This is something that I have difficulty seeing in a skein.

I have found that I am not alone in my understanding of this “yarn hank”, so I hope my experience will help you take the step to attempt a yarn you may not have used because of the way it is presented. (And I have since learned, that most of these Local Yarn Stores, will in fact wind the hank into a skein for you at purchase, you just have to ask). Take the plunge and explore the world of fiber!